Hiking Alander Mountain in the Berkshires

On Monday, Margaret and I hiked Alander Mountain in the Berkshires, a nice little hike about an hour from Albany. I have never hiked in the Berkshires and was excited to try something new! The trailhead is located in South Egremont, Massachusettes in Mt Washington State Forest. The first few miles were a nice walk along gently rolling terrain. There was slick ice underneath a few inches of new snow, which made wearing microspikes necessary!

Unfortunately, the snow was very soft and packable, which caused it to ball up under our microspikes. Not comfortable! The trail gets slightly steep after a few miles, but nothing too terrible!  After about an hour and a half of hiking, we came to the cabin.

The cabin is located right below the summit of Alander, which has some great views of the Berkshires from the top.

 

It was chilly and windy at the summit, so we only stopped briefly for a snack before heading back down. After the hike, we stopped for a late lunch at Barrington Brewery in Great Barrington. I really love spending time in the Berkshires and definitely need to explore the area more since it’s such a short drive away.

Alander Mountain
Distance 6.2 mi RT
Elevation 2,240 ft
Ascent 1,326ft
Time 2 hrs, 56 min including stops

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Saratoga Fat Bike Rally Recap

Hi folks! It has an exciting weekend of outdoorsy adventures. This past Saturday the fourth annual Saratoga Fat Bike Rally was held at the Warming Hut in Saratoga Spa State Park.

Even though the weather was looking a bit dreary, my friend Margaret and I drove up with our fat bikes (she borrowed one from my other friend) to check it out! We arrived at around 10:30, just in time for the first group ride. We tagged along (and were two of four women out of about 20 riders). The ride looped around the park a few times on snow-covered sidewalks and paths. The temperatures were a bit warm, so the snow wasn’t holding up well. After about 6 miles of riding, we broke off from the group and rode around a bit, finally stopping at the warming up to dry out, since it had been drizzling since we arrived.

Inside, Common Roots was selling beer, and a station was set up serving delicious-looking crepes, complete with a toasty fire.

We dried out our gloves and jackets and enjoyed a porter from Common Roots, chatting up some of the other riders.

(photo coursey of Focal Blue Photography)

After our drinks, we were convinced to check out the fat bike race course (the race was held at 9:30 so we missed it). The snow was firming up a bit from the rain so it made the ride a lot of fun. We rode the race lap twice before packing the bikes up and heading to lunch at the Local in Saratoga.

Even though the weather didn’t cooperate, Margaret and I were both really happy we went to the Rally. It was a great opportunity to meet other riders and have some fun in the snow!

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Fat Biking at Kingdom Trails, VT

Saturday morning, Margaret and I braved the cold temperatures and drove from our rental on Lake Willoughby to Kingdom Trails in East Burke (~30 min drive). (Check out my post about what to wear fat biking in cold weather!) We got Margaret’s rental bike and started pedaling straight from the shop on Darling Hill.

The temperature was zero degrees F when we started, and about five minutes into our ride my gear shifters FROZE! I brought my bike into the shop to thaw out but as soon as we got back out they froze again. I was unable to change gears, but thankfully it was frozen in an easier gear. I just had to ride in one gear all day, which made things interesting. I think water got into the shifter on the ride up to VT since it was raining, and froze with the temperature drop (it went from ~50 degrees to zero in less than 24 hrs), even though I dried my bike as best as I could. With the huge temp drop, the trails at Kingdom packed up nicely and made for PERFECT riding conditions. The guys at the bike shop had said it was prime for fat biking, so we were stoked!

The bottom of Kitchel, one of the best trails at Kingdom due to its table jumps and huge berms. We rode it twice that weekend!

We took a break after a few hours of riding to warm up and have some hot drinks served at the Hub Trailside where we rented Margaret’s bike. Then we went back out to explore the other side of the trail system, opting to ride down River Walk, which was a BLAST.

Overall, we rode a little over 13 miles that day with lots of climbing.

Favorite trails of the day: Sugarhouse Run, Kitchel, River Walk

After our ride, we drove back to our rental to shower, change and find a place to get dinner. We decided on Parker Pie, a small pizza place a few towns over with delicious pizza and good beers on tap.

The next day we decided to ride the same route, minus one of the trails, Pines, that included lots of climbing. We debated on riding Troll Stroll down but decided against it since we didn’t have any suspension on our fat bikes. I rode this trail on my full-suspension enduro bike back in August, which was fun, but a lot different than a fat bike.

We opted to take the fun River Walk trail, which we rode the previous day. This weekend was Margaret’s first time on a fat bike and she killed it!

We also rode Kitchel again which was a blast.

I was pretty impressed we rode over 10 miles on our second day. The miles just seemed to fly by when we were out there!

At around 12 we decided to head back to the shop to warm up, change and get ready for the ~4 hr drive home. Kingdom Trails remains one of my favorite places to ride. It was the first place I ever rode a mountain bike (it was actually a fat bike). The trails are fun, flowy, fast and not to mention beautiful. I cannot wait until next time.

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Exploring the Northeast Kingdom of VT – Day 1

For MLK weekend, my friend Margaret and I decided we wanted to take a mini trip since we both had Monday off. I got Margaret into mountain biking this past fall (she even bought my old mountain bike after I upgraded mine!) and wanted to give fat biking a try! We decided a weekend of riding at Kingdom Trails would be awesome. We drove up to the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont on Friday after work, grabbed a quick dinner at Madison Brewing in Bennington, drove through some immense fog and rain, finally arriving at our rental on Lake Willoughby in Westmore, VT.

Since it had rained all day on Friday, the trails were closed on Saturday. The temps had dropped and it was also snowing most of the day. Even though this derailed our riding plans a bit, we decided to make the most of it by exploring the Northeast Kingdom. Thankfully we had Margaret’s husband’s Subaru so we thought nothing of driving around in the ice and snow.

Our first stop was Wildflower Inn for a delicious breakfast and bottomless coffee.

Wildflower Inn is located right next to the bike shop where Margaret was renting her fat bike, The Hub, so after breakfast, we stopped by to confirm the rental.

Next up: Hill Farmstead Brewery! We drove about ~40 min from East Burke to Hill Farmstead. Apparently, a lot of others had the same idea. The route involved many hills on slippery back roads, so we were thankful for the Subaru–Thanks Jeff! We saw a Prius get stuck on a snowy hill and we were impressed when we saw they made it to Hill Farmstead!

The delicious Grassroots Brewing Convivial Suaréz

Next up: Kingdom Brewing! Located WAY up in Newport, VT not far from the Canadian border, Kingdom Brewing was a gem! They had some delicious beers, with a lot less hype than Hill Farmstead. The taproom was relaxing and quiet, and we each enjoyed a sampler.

There were great views from the brewery, too.

We stopped for some groceries on the way home and made delicious tacos at our rental before turning in for the night.

The view of Lake Willougby near our rental

We wanted to be rested for the following day’s adventures! Stay tuned…

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Guide to Layering for Winter Hiking

This post is a follow-up to last week’s post about What to Wear Fat Biking in Cold Weather. Last year my friend Skyler and I hiked in the Catskills on a frigid day. I meant to use this graphic last winter but never got around do it. As I type, the wind is howling outside my window and the windchill is -10, so now is a good time as ever!

The key to staying warm during outdoor activities in the winter is layering. Base layers, or what you’re wearing against your skin are very important for retaining heat. A good base layer is made of either merino wool, which can be expensive, or a synthetic material, which is cheaper. I always wear a fleece-lined long-sleeve midweight base layer over the lightweight layer for extra warmth. On this particular day, I was wearing five total layers on top!

  1. Tank top (synthetic)
  2. Long sleeve base layer (merino)
  3. Mid-weight long sleeve (synthetic)
  4. Insulating down-tech fleece jacket (down-filled core with sweater fleece)
  5. Prima loft hooded jacket (lightweight, synthetic insulating outer layer)
  6. An optional sixth layer would be a shell, however, on this particular day, it was not wet enough to warrant a rain jacket or shell. However, I’d advise to always keep one in your pack during hikes!

On the bottom, you can layer similarly. I had on a mid-weight merino baselayer pant and my regular hiking pants on top of them. I also layered with a pair of synthetic sock-liners under a thick pair of wool socks, along with insulated winter hiking boots. A knit hat, a fleece neck warmer, and waterproof insulated gloves were also key! Hiking can be hard work, so being able to remove layers when you get too warm is important to help regulate temperature. You don’t ever want to be hiking in wet, sweaty clothes in cold temperatures.

As always, check the weather forecast before you head out. Also carry proper traction for your hike, such as microspikes, crampons, or snowshoes. Sometimes it’s best to bring all three, which can make a heavy pack!

Check out some of one of my other posts about winter hiking:

Adirondack Hiking Safety Tips

 

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